The coming rejection of the Global Gardens Public Charter School and Crossway Community Charter School applications by the MCPS Board of Education is certainly disappointing, and it raises the question of whether the Board of Education will ever deem a charter school worthy enough for Montgomery County.
Disappointing in that some of the substance of the GGPCS application was indeed flawed and in hindsight definitely could have benefited from an additional year of planning and refinement to iron out the inconsistencies. I connected briefly with the group very early on, and my impression was that although very well intentioned, they were a bit politically naive. They overestimated the moment of political ripeness (post-Obama glow, Race to the Top, pressure for localities outside of Baltimore City to approve a charter) and underestimated what they were up against.
For all his smooth folksiness, Jerry Weast is a shark. A hubristic, canny and self-serving shark. He has cowed the Board of Education. He has been masterful in spinning his “successes” to the national educracy and then trumpeting those accolades here in MoCo to parents who want to believe and in order to justify an ever-growing MCPS budget. The idea that he and the Board would concede any flaws in MCPS, any weakness that would merit an alternative–just not possible. You can read it in the practically hurt tone of the sentence, “Panelists raised concerns that the application implies that MCPS does not “cultivate each child’s natural curiosity through a vigorous curriculum that emphasizes inquiry, discovery, and authenticity,” and they questioned that assumption.”
Bringing together the people and resources to put forward a charter school application is a daunting task and GGPCS did a commendable job in a relatively short time.
However in this climate, GGPCS didn’t just have to bring their “A” game; they had to bring an A+++game. Setting aside the knowledge that an impartial analysis of any MCPS school or program would also raise a host of concerns, a proposed charter would have to walk on water. And that’s a problem.
What’s really needed is an independent chartering authority. The idea that the Board of Education (elected with support of the teachers’ union) and the MCPS bureacracy (interested in garnering more resources for itself) can act with any measure of impartiality vis a vis charter schools is at this point, sadly, unthinkable.
UPDATE: Read the Washington Post’s editorial on MCPS, Weast and the charter applications.
the approval process for starting up these alternative public schools is a little like letting McDonald’s decide if Burger King can move in next door. It’s yet more evidence that Maryland needs to change its antiquated charter law.